Tuesday, December 28, 2004

If Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz's Crunk Juice doesn't prove to you that Lil Jon is more than a one-trick pony, you're clearly not paying attention. Yeah, it gets a little samey in spots, and yeah, without guests, the lyrics get a bit tiresome, mostly-to-all aggro, Alpha-male posturing. [Getting "crunk up in the club" is not that all that different from moshing at a Bad Brains show.] But a key is that Jon knows that he's not a great rapper. Like Quincy Jones or Jermaine Dupri, Jon's best behind the boards, which is why this album is liberally larded with guests, from Jon's make-'em-say-"Yeah!" pals Ludacris and Usher to the likes of Eightball & MJG and R. Kelly. "The Grand Finale" alone features Nas, Ice Cube, T.I., Big Bun (of UGK) and Jadakiss. Now, that's heavyweight. It's also indicative of the standing Jon's got in the industry right now - talk about "political capital."

"One Night Stand" is a let's-do-it-let's-not-fall-in-love slow jam which not only presents a potential new talent in female vocalist Oobie, but also departs from ballad convention by having a seismic "boom!" every 8 bars. It's followed by "Aww Skeet Skeet," about which you just need to know this: Lil Jon does go-go, well. Just listen to that 808 on "In Da Club" (not a 50 Cent song), hoovering away like Beltram on "Mentasm." Oh, and not only does Rick Rubin man the boards for "Stop Fuckin' Wit Me"... he samples two Slayer songs in doing so. Crunk rock, in-fuckin'-deed.

If you can, get the double-disc version of Crunk Juice, where the second CD is a collection of remixes which Jon's either done or is featured on. His infamous "Lean Back" remix featuring Eminem and Mase is here, as are a pair of takes on first single "What U Gon' Do" and two takes on "Roll Call," both featuring - I'm not making this up - Bad Brains. See, the thing is, Lil Jon isn't just the merchant of crunkness. He's actually pushing things forward, forging new paths. He doesn't need your respect, but he deserves it. Crunk Juice is 2004's second-best hiphop longplayer (behind Trick Daddy's wower Thug Matrimony, and ahead of the likes of Dizzee Rascal and not-the-savior-of-hiphop-but-nonetheless-talented Kanye West). Drink up. A-

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